Feeds

O2 flogs logs of mobe locations to anyone with a wallet

This anonymised guy lives here, works there ...

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Telefonica, the owner of the O2 brand, has set up a new division to exploit its massive heap of customer data. This means selling punters' movement patterns and the number of people ambling through a particular spot to anyone with the cash.

Telefónica Dynamic Insights will sift through the data to see what's worth selling, while market research biz Gfk will hawk the information. The first product, Smart Steps, is fully anonymised, just selling the number of people walking past a particular location, but add information about where they came from and the bundle becomes quite valuable.

Telefonica emphasises the power of big data for social good, suggesting the Smart Steps could be used "to help town councils measure how many more people visit their high street after the introduction of free car parking, farmers markets, or late night shopping", but one has to wonder how many local councils will stump up the money.

Not that it should be expensive, once the analysis tools are in place it's just a matter of crunching the numbers. Telefonica, in common with all European mobile operators, is required to store two years' worth of location data for every customer in case the police take an interest, so the information is all cluttering up the place regardless.

Neither is Telefonica alone in selling location data: Vodafone, for example, provides tracking information to TomTom for its real-time traffic information, and other operators have similar deals though they're not always so blatant about it.

It's always been strange to see demonstrators and police producing wildly divergent numbers for those attending a protest, while the network operators have long been sitting on surprisingly accurate figures. Having those statistics on the open market will surely enable one side, or the other, to prove its case.

Mass analysis of this type has few privacy implications, but there's an ever-present temptation to inspect closer which is a concern. Having a visible department selling the data should increase transparency and let us see what's being sold, for as long as we keep watching. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins
Who will save the systems from the men and women who save the systems from you?
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Ofcom snatches 700MHz off digital telly, hands it to mobile data providers
Hungry mobe'n'slab-waving Blighty swallows spectrum
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.